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The 3rd Best-Handling Car in US

September 23, 2010 · Print This Article

2010 Mazda RX8 R3 is the Best-Handling Car in America for Less Than $100,000.

Now almost a decade old, with just a minor refresh and the sporty R3 package (19-inch forged aluminum wheels, Recaro seats, Bilstein shocks) for 2009, the RX-8 mustered just enough C/D support to make the cut.

2010 Mazda RX-8 R3

But, boy, were its backers correct.

Although the RX-8 has slipped down the rankings in more recent comparison tests, most of the damage has been inflicted by its light-on-torque yet fuel-sucking rotary engine, not its chassis.

The RX-8 is slightly more front-heavy than the M3, but that can’t be discerned from behind the wheel, where this Mazda is exceedingly neutral. In fact, the back end is about as playful as they come from the factory—and the oversteer is most certainly not of the power variety. This demonstrates a penchant of tuning for enthusiasts rather than for the safety of the lowest-common-denominator driver, which is refreshing considering the litigiousness in this country. At Waterford, counting just the cornering sections, the lithe RX-8 astonishingly matched the mighty Bimmer despite having less skidpad grip—the second-lowest in the group, in fact—from its Bridgestone RE050A summer tires.

Mazda RX8 R3 interior

Plus, the suspension shrugged off midcorner impacts and showed excellent body and wheel control during our street driving. Its above-average body roll garnered not a single complaint because it’s so fluid and linear, communicating to the driver precisely what’s going on, which in turn leads to a feeling of confidence only exceeded by the Porsche and the Lotus.

Add in excellent steering, and the RX-8 was easily the best front-engine, rear-drive entrant, serving up a scalpel-like demeanor on both road and track. The steering has an enviable combination of straight-ahead calmness and eager turn-in, and it weights up nicely off-center with linear responses, although some nuances felt in the Lotus and the Porsche are filtered out here.

Our reservations were minor ones. The steering wheel lacks a telescoping function, and there’s a slight dead zone in the brakes. While the R3’s Recaro seats are greatly bolstered—from the thighs all the way up to the shoulders—and resolutely solid, with plenty of adjustability despite just fore-and-aft and backrest-angle controls, they were also a little too restrictive for all but the most petite of our jurors. Plus, some sadist inserted a horizontal bar positioned right at the small of the driver’s back.

But overall, the RX-8 remains a brilliant, relatively lightweight four-seat chassis in search of class-competitive power and fuel economy

Mazda RX8 handling

Article from caranddriver.com


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